Judge rejects torture claims by Islamic State defendant

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Incriminating statements made by a British national charged with a significant role in the torture and beheading of American and British hostages held by the Islamic State group can be used against him at trial, a judge has ruled.

El Shafee Elsheikh sought to have statements admitting his role in the scheme tossed out; he claimed they were obtained through torture after he was captured.

But U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, in a ruling issued this week, said his claims were unsupported by testimony taken during a three-day hearing last year.

Elsheikh also objected to the fact that defense interrogators questioned him 26 times before he was advised of his right to remain silent. But Ellis said interrogators used a legally permissible two-step interrogation process, in which a “clean team” of interrogators came in after those 26 interviews, advised him of his rights, and collected information only from those subsequent interviews.

Elsheikh is one of four Islamic State members nicknamed “The Beatles” by their captives because of their English accents. The indictment charges him with hostage taking resulting in the deaths of Americans James Foley, Kayla Mueller, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig. It also charges him with conspiring in the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, including aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.

A co-defendant, Alexanda Anon Kotey, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Alexandria in a plea bargain that would impose a mandatory life sentence but includes a provision that could allow him to serve out his sentence in Great Britain after 15 years of imprisonment in the U.S.

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